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THEATER REVIEW:Passions, porkers prevail in 'Pig Farm'

January 19, 2007|By TOM TITUS

It's just a guess — I haven't had a peek at the script — but it would appear that playwright Greg Kotis ended every line in his new play "Pig Farm" with an exclamation point. Even the "good mornings."

At least that's the way this ballistic exercise plays out on the stage of South Coast Repertory, where intensity overflows into nastiness and general mayhem. It may be billed as a comedy, but there are two bodies on the floor as the final lights fade.

"Pig Farm" is the latest creation from the author of the musical "Urinetown," a farcical glimpse of a futuristic society. There's plenty of farce in this one as well, along with all the mud and blood that's spread around among the four characters.

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Kotis' sense of the strange and bizarre extends to his choice of character names. All four of the people in "Pig Farm" — as well as the unseen folks outside — have names beginning with "T." That's no criticism, not from someone with my moniker — just an observation.

The pig farmer, Tom (Steve Rankin), is working himself into a lather over the impending visit from an Environmental Protection Agency official and hounds his surly hired hand Tim (Brad Fleischer) to get an accurate count of the swine. Meanwhile Tom's wife, Tina (Blake Lindsley), yearns for a child and may get her wish with or without hubby's help.

When the EPA man, Teddy (J.D. Cullum), arrives, the bacon really hits the fan as the oinkers run wild (offstage, of course) and serious charges loom. Between the law-breaking and the hanky-panky in the cellar, this pig farm's about to go to the dogs.

Director Martin Benson pushes the comedic pedal to the metal, and his actors respond with a vengeance, pumping up the volume and leaving all traces of credulity behind. They're understandably exhausted at the final fade out — as is the audience.

Rankin, who also doubles as fight director, turns in an explosive performance as the farmer, striving passionately to preserve his porkers and clinging to his tiny segment of the American dream. Lindsley, by contrast, is a ravenous creature hell-bent for sexual contact after what appears to be an overlong period of neglect.

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